Exercise Glitches

If you’ve made the effort to go to the gym, take the bike out for a ride or go for a run, you want to give it your all. To help prevent any roadblocks from reducing the length or intensity of your workout, try these self help strategies for some common exercise glitches.

running stitch

A stitch

Scientists are unsure of the exact cause of stitches. For some time, they were thought to be caused by a reduction in blood supply to the diaphragm, a large muscle involved in breathing. It was suggested that during exercise, blood was shunted away from the diaphragm and redirected to exercising muscles. This theory has now lost favour with scientists as both the diaphragm and the limb muscles need to work harder during exercise, so it is unlikely that an inadequate blood flow is directed to the diaphragm.

A more recent idea is that stitch is caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum. Two layers of membrane (peritoneum) line the inside wall of the abdominal cavity. One layer covers the abdominal organs, while the other layer (parietal peritoneum) attaches to the abdominal wall. The two layers are separated by lubricating fluid, which allows the two surfaces to move against each other without pain. It is thought that the stitch occurs when there is friction between the abdominal contents and the parietal peritoneum. This friction may be caused by a distended (full) stomach or a reduction in the lubricating fluid. The parietal peritoneum is also attached to the phrenic nerve, which refers pain to the shoulder tip region, which may explain the shoulder pain that has been described by some athletes.

  • Aim to have your last main meal two to three hours before a workout.
  • Avoid consuming highly concentrated fluids such as soft drinks, cordial and fruit juice immediately before and during exercise.
  • Take small frequent sips of water, rather than consuming large amounts of fluid at once.
  • Slow your breathing down and focus on inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
  • Slow down and drop intensity for a period.
  • Bending forward and pushing on the affected area while breathing deeply.

Burning pain

When you exercise, your body uses oxygen to break down glucose for energy. During intense exercise, there may not be enough oxygen available to complete the process, so a substance called lactate is made. Your body can convert this lactate to energy without using oxygen. But this lactate or lactic acid can build up in your bloodstream faster than you can burn it off. The point when lactic acid starts to build up is called the “lactate threshold.”

  • Begin any exercise routine gradually building up pace and distance slowly.
  • Engage in recovery – a brisk walk, for example – between bursts of high intensity activity.
  • Gradually increase the amount of exercise each week so your body builds up a tolerance.
  • Stay hydrated with small frequent sips of water.
  • Increase magnesium in your diet (Vegetables like swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens and green beans, legumes like navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lima beans and seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources of magnesium.)

Post exercise soreness

Yesterday during your new workout you felt invincible. Today simply walking feels like an Olympic effort. You’re probably suffering from delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) which generally subsides in two to five days. Young athletes are susceptible to DOMS because their conditioning is not yet fully developed to handle heavy and intense workouts, and older athletes are susceptible to DOMS because of their age, shifting hormonal status and decreased recovery responses.

  • Pull back and do less intense exercise for a few days until the peak of DOMS subsides, or change your workout to different muscle groups.
  • Stretch and massage the affected muscles gently.
  • Book a chiropractic appointment to aid your recovery.
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